28 March 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

  • GDP stats: Rishi’s recession confirmed
  • Thames Water: Broken firm needs to be taken into special administration
  • McArthur’s Assisted Dying Bill published by Scottish Parliament
  • Blackie unveils plan to “Green” the Silvertown Tunnel

GDP stats: Rishi’s recession confirmed

Responding to this morning’s ONS figures confirming the UK economy did go into recession last year, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

These damning figures confirm the damage done to the UK economy by Rishi’s recession. This Conservative government has no plan for growth or to help families paying the price for years of economic chaos through soaring mortgages and rents.

The Liberal Democrats have a bold plan to get the economy growing again, fix our broken trading relationship with Europe and support small businesses on the brink. It’s clear the best thing for the economy would be a general election, so we can kick the Conservative Party out of power and offer the real change the country needs.

Thames Water: Broken firm needs to be taken into special administration

Responding to the news that Thames Water’s shareholders will not be injecting the first £500 million of funding that was agreed last summer, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson and MP for Richmond Park Sarah Olney said:

Thames Water is a broken firm. It is teetering on the brink of collapse and it is clear that things cannot go on as they are.

Drastic action is needed to keep the taps running for millions of customers. Execs have pocketed sky-high bonuses, given billions to overseas investors whilst watching their infrastructure crumble. The board should hang their heads in shame.

No longer should this firm be allowed to mistreat customers and destroy our environment with their filthy sewage.

That is why ministers must use their powers to put Thames Water into special administration immediately, to then be reformed into a public benefit company. Only that way can we ensure this polluting giant will begin working for its customers again.

McArthur’s Assisted Dying Bill published by Scottish Parliament

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur has today published his Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill.

The aim of the bill is to enable mentally competent adults with an advanced, progressive terminal illness to be provided with assistance to end their life at their request. The development of the bill has been supported by the campaign groups Dignity in Dying, Friends at the End and Humanist Society Scotland.

The legal text of the bill can be found on the Scottish Parliament website here and a summary can be found in the notes to editors.

Mr McArthur lodged the draft proposal for his bill on 22 September 2021. A public consultation on assisted dying, elicited a record 14,038 responses with 76% of individuals who responded expressing full support with a further 2% partially supporting a change in the law.

A final proposal for a bill received backing from 36 MSPs – over a quarter of members, and as many as the number who voted for the previous assisted dying bill in the chamber at stage one.

MRP polling conducted on behalf of Dignity in Dying and released today has now revealed that a majority of Scots in every Scottish parliamentary constituency back a change in the law.

Liam McArthur MSP said:

I’d like to thank Dignity in Dying, Friends at the End and Humanist Society Scotland as well as the Scottish Parliament’s non-governmental bills unit for their help in developing the bill that is published today.

Our current laws on assisted dying are failing too many terminally ill Scots at the end of life.

Too often, and despite the best efforts of palliative care, dying people are facing traumatic deaths that harm both them and those they leave behind.

Polling has consistently shown overwhelming public support for assisted dying and now I believe that politicians are catching up with where the public has been for some time.

This bill contains robust safeguards, similar to those which have been safely and successfully introduced in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States where they continue to enjoy strong public support.

As my bill moves forward, I know my MSP colleagues will want to look closely at the detail and consider the compelling evidence supporting a change in the law. On that basis, I’m confident parliament will back my proposals to give terminally ill adults the choice they need.

Ally Thomson, Director of Dignity in Dying Scotland said:

As Liam McArthur MSP’s Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults Bill is published in the Scottish Parliament the message from constituents to their MSPs is strikingly clear – it is time to change the law and vote to give dying people the choice of safe and compassionate assisted dying.

In every constituency and region in Scotland there is an unshakeable majority of support for a compassionate assisted dying law, with tight safeguards that would benefit and protect dying people and improve end-of-life care as a whole. That law is now within our reach. The Bill published today provides the compassion and choice dying people need and put safety and protection in place where none currently exists.

I’ve spoken to countless people who have watched a loved one endure a terrible death and don’t wish anyone else to suffer in a similar way and to so many terminally ill people who are desperate for the peace of mind that this Bill would bring. The publication of the Bill today gives them all hope that needless suffering can be consigned to the past.

Blackie unveils plan to “Green” the Silvertown Tunnel

Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate, Rob Blackie, has attacked Mayor Sadiq Khan for pushing ahead with the polluting Silvertown Tunnel project – dubbing it the “Sadiq Khan Motorway”.
In a stunt by the construction site for the Silvertown Tunnel, Blackie unveiled a new sign naming the project after the Mayor that ignored environmental campaigners concerns and gave the green light to the £2 billion road project.

With construction well underway, Blackie expressed disappointment that a cancellation was no longer viable. However, he unveiled his plan to “Green The Tunnel”. Rob Blackie will:

  • Conduct a feasibility study into making the Silvertown Tunnel low-carbon vehicles only and work to create new bus routes through it
  • Ensure transparency and accountability by releasing all modelling done by TfL to date and introduce intensive monitoring of air pollution going forward
  • Offer discounts to local residents in Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets who will bear the environmental cost of the tunnel.

The tunnel is set to open in 2025 and Sadiq Khan is set to charge road users around £5 per crossing through both the Silvertown and neighbouring Blackwall tunnel.

Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate, Rob Blackie, said:

Sadiq Khan has spent £2bn on the Silvertown tunnel – more than anything else he has done. But he virtually never talks about it. At a recent Mayoral hustings the Labour party representative wouldn’t even say the word ‘Silvertown’.

We will name this mess the ‘Sadiq Khan Motorway’. If he’s a fan of it, I would challenge him to live next to it.

This tunnel makes a mockery of the Mayor’s claim to be the greenest Mayor ever.

The way to cut pollution and climate change is to encourage people to walk, bicycle and use public transport. This multi-billion pound project does exactly the opposite.

Sadly, it is too late to stop the road being built. But the Liberal Democrats have a plan to Green The Tunnel and make the best of the £2bn debt that the Mayor has left us.

Our ambition is to make it accessible to low-carbon vehicles only, shine a light on the real environmental impact of the tunnel from day one and to soften the blow on local residents with a significant discount on the toll.

Only the Liberal Democrats have a serious plan to clean up the mess left by the Mayor in Silvertown.

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52 Comments

  • According to Sarah Olney, “That is why ministers must use their powers to put Thames Water into special administration immediately, to then be reformed into a public benefit company”.

    For the benefit of public understanding could Ms Olney please explain what that means…… and, what is the difference between ‘a public benefit company’ and nationalising the water industry ? If LNER can be renationalised why can’t the water industry ?

    I may well be wrong, but Lib Dem policy these days seems to have a bit of Queen Victoria’s “something must be done”.

  • Steve Trevethan 28th Mar '24 - 4:04pm

    Might our party seek and explore recovery of some, all, all plus interest, of the money extracted from this organisations abused customers?

  • Steve Trevethan 28th Mar '24 - 4:06pm

    P. S. With apologies, Thames Water Company organisation

  • @David. I’d guess ‘public benefit company’ means something like Welsh Water Dwr Cymru. Run ‘not for profit’, but run by a board and not owned by the Welsh government.
    (Still has a massive problem with infrastructure and sewage spills – but no shareholders sucking out money).

  • Ross O’Kelly 28th Mar '24 - 8:58pm

    Cassie, regarding “shareholders sucking out money”, let’s call shareholders “investors “ and ask ourselves why any organisation/person would invest in a company if they weren’t allowed a share of the profits, given they loose everything if the company goes bust ? Nationalisation gets you around this problem, but why the knee jerk lashing out at shareholders when no one else is willing to put up the capital ?

  • SteveTrevethan 29th Mar '24 - 6:52am

    What have Thames Water shareholders actually done to ensure that their company provided/provides a service that is fit for safe and reliable use?

  • Chris Moore 29th Mar '24 - 7:00am

    Anybody who has a company or private pension is highly likely to be an indirect shareholder in water companies, as pension funds love utility investments.

    All those sounding off about “shareholders” should bear this in mind.

  • Chris Moore 29th Mar '24 - 7:09am

    And sadly it needs to be repeated every time this conversation comes up: publicly owned Scottish water has an outstandingly bad record on sewage, deliberately massively failing to monitor potential sewage overflow points.

    Likewise, look at the historical record: pre-privatisation water companies in the UK had an abysmal record.

    There was an improvement post-privatisation across a range of water and sewage indicators.

    Why? Because Thatcher’s government wrote off some of the debt of public water prior to privatisation and subsequently new private borrowing occurred.

    In other words, there was a one-off serious increase in investment in water infrastructure.

  • Chris Moore 29th Mar '24 - 7:25am

    That is what is needed now.

    It can be funded

    1. by charging customers the real cost of providing water and sewage services, which would include the massive possibly 100 billion pound cost of renewing antique infrastructure. In other words, charges need to go up.

    2. Nationalise, funded by a massive increase in taxes and borrowing. Followed by another massive increase in taxes and/or borrowing to fund the necessary renovation of infrastructure.

    There is no way round 1 or 2.

  • Steve Trevethan 29th Mar '24 - 9:21am

    How are those who cannot afford to feed their children adequately and/or heat their homes properly to pay 40% ? higher water bills?

  • Chris Moore 29th Mar '24 - 9:42am

    The poorly off need to be supported adequately through the benefits system. I’m in favour of a significant increase in benefits.

    Customers need to start paying the real cost of water: that includes renovating dilapidated infrastructure.

    Or you can waste maybe a hundred billion nationalising the industry, then another hundred billion tax and borrowing hike.

    Either way, it’s painful. But that’s the reality if the situation.

  • Chris Moore 29th Mar ’24 – 7:00am
    “Anybody who has a company or private pension is highly likely to be an indirect shareholder in water companies“
    True, but pension funds also like to invest in Government Bonds, where any future publicly owned water company would be invested from.
    So no real change there.

  • Jenny Barnes 29th Mar '24 - 10:15am

    “The Liberal Democrats have a bold plan to get the economy growing again”
    Do we? what is it, pray tell?

    no, wait, I know: the intoroduction of a brand new high density energy source which emits no CO2.

  • What is our response in relation to Labour’s plans to increase taxation on Private Education forcing many children to be withdrawn and placed in the State sector.

  • Jason Connor 29th Mar '24 - 11:00am

    It sounds like people on lower incomes are being patronised again. People already pay more each year for water charges or water rates so why not let the government contribute. It seems to me Sarah is advocating nationalisation in the guise of a public benefit company. I would support that. At least there would be accountability which has never been the case since privatisation. Consumers would benefit with lower charges part consumer and government funded and better regulation of the industry.

  • Peter Martin 29th Mar '24 - 11:29am

    @ Chris Moore,

    “Nationalise, funded by a massive increase in taxes and borrowing”

    Not necessarily massive.

    As the economy is generally agreed to be in a state of recession it follows that there is likely to be extra slack in the economy.

    Therefore there is likely to be scope for the Government to increase its spending without raising levels of taxation. The money cycle starts with Govt creating the money as it spends and destroying it when it is collected in taxation.

    The more it spends the more it collects in taxation. The difference between the two occurs when some of us might choose to save it rather than spend it.

    This is not to say that the Govt should spend as much as likes, on anything and everything, but rather that there is often scope to spend more without causing inflation.

  • @Chris Moore. Nationalise without compensation. The directors and shareholders have had more than enough money out of the Water Companies.
    @David Raw. Sorry to dent your hope, but LNER (and a number of other rail companies) are being run by an arms length railway manager with a view to being put back in the private sector. Tories will pursue privatisation at whatever cost. Labour say they will renationalise the railways, but I don’t believe them. They have not said they will bring back water into public ownership.
    We have a golden opportunity here, to say what is right and also popular. I doubt Ed will take that chance

  • Labour plans to increase tax on Private Schools in order to raise they hope, over £1b. Many parents cannot afford this and are moving or plan to move their kids to the State Sector, which is somewhat self defeating for the plans supporters.
    BUT what is our stance on this, it could come up very early in the Parliament after the election, assuming Labour win or are in a minority administration, where we could hold the balance? We could be challenged for our view during the election itself.

  • Peter Martin 29th Mar '24 - 12:22pm

    @ David Raw,

    ” If LNER can be renationalised why can’t the water industry ?”

    Good question.

    I’m sure you’ve figured out the answer for yourself though. There is an election in the offing and the Lib Dems are mainly targeting disgruntled Tory voters. It wouldn’t do to sound too left wing!

  • @Mick Taylor
    Are you really advocating for nationalisation without compensation? That is the state theft/confiscation of private property. While I understand the argument that taking assets from those who have enough wealth to be able to invest in shares is better than taking more from taxpayers to pay a fair price for the assets seized, I’m not convinced such an approach is either more progressive or economically prudent. The ultimate ownership of shares often lies with ordinary working people through their pension funds – are we not on their side rather than very high earners who wish to pay as low taxes as possible? Plus, if we are to seize shares in this sector, why not in others? I’m also sure that seizing sovereign wealth of Norway (shares owned by the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund) is not how countries should behave towards allies.

  • LNER was easy to ‘renationalize’ because it was simply a case of, the publicly owned DfT OLR Holdings taking over the contract after Virgin chose to surrender its contract to run the services. There was no actual transfer of ownership of anything. Proponents of nationalization might note that since taking over, the publicly owned company has stealth-raised numerous fares by withdrawing cheaper tickets, and has also failed to improve services in the way that the previous contract had required. But it’s publicly owned so we won’t complain about that, right?

    @Mick: Nationalize without compensation???? Seriously? In other words, have the Government just steal the shareholders’ property? Would you think it was OK if the Government decided to, say, nationalize your house or your car without compensation?

  • > Nationalize without compensation???? Seriously?
    Yes, remember i. The case of the railways the plan was (still is?) simply to let the existing contracts come to an end and for them to be relet to “public benefit companies” (although I would like a better definition of what a PBC is).

    In the case of the water utilities, they have failed to deliver what they have been charging consumer for and thus should be compensating their customers, which will result in the companies going bankrupt and thus being available for purchased for £1 each…

  • @ Simon R I don’t think Dr Taylor’s house and car are a public utility, Simon.

  • @ Peter Martin Yes, indeed, Peter. You got it in one.

  • Mary Fulton 29th Mar '24 - 3:23pm

    Off topic, if you don’t mind, but stunning opinion poll from yougov yesterday putting Reform UK at 16% – just 5% behind the Conservatives. I’m beginning to wonder if we may actually witness the replacement of the Conservatives as the principle right of centre party (assuming Labour is not, now, a right of centre party)

  • Nonconformistradical 29th Mar '24 - 3:32pm

    “In the case of the water utilities, they have failed to deliver what they have been charging consumer for and thus should be compensating their customers”

    I think this is the key issue. We customers don’t have any choice about which water company we use – they’re privatised regional monopolies. Which seems to me an open invitation to their directors and shareholders to fleece the customers with the objective of maximising profit. It stinks.

  • @ Simon R. Virgin did not “choose to to surrender its contract”.

    They were disqualified by the Department ofTransport after failing to meet their pension commitments.

  • @Ross. ‘let’s… ask ourselves why any organisation/person would invest in a company if they weren’t allowed a share of the profits..?
    Obviously they wouldn’t. The point is that there ARE no actual profits in the water industry: the private firms have to find dividends for its investors, which means there is less to spend on infrastructure.
    Non-profit Welsh Water has had to borrow money (it can’t raise enough from customers), and has to service the debt, which means there is less to spend on infrastructure.
    And as for a government ‘simply’ being able to borrow money to privatise the industry and fix its problems, UK government debt to GDP was 97.10 percent in 2022-23. There’s a reason Labour aren’t promising to throw money around if they are elected.
    As Chris says, there are no easy answers to a problem that has been many decades in the making.

  • David Allen 29th Mar '24 - 4:22pm

    The fundamental problem is that nobody wants to spend their own money, or their voters’ own money, on anything but Number One. That’s why we are doing nothing about climate change, or the NHS.

    Nationalising water won’t solve this, because Governments will promise to spend big and sort out sewage, and then Governments will break their promise. Privatising water was “sold” as the way to bring in private investors, but has instead brought in private asset-strippers.

    Democracy worked better when Labour was a class-based party, and they could happily tax the rich and spend to meet public needs, knowing that the rich weren’t going to vote Labour anyway. Now Labour seeks votes from everybody, so Starmer doesn’t dare say or do anything which could hit anybody’s pockets. Which means Labour are now just a waste of space.

  • Steve Trevethan 29th Mar '24 - 4:51pm
  • Chris Moore 29th Mar ’24 – 7:09am…And sadly it needs to be repeated every time this conversation comes up: publicly owned Scottish water has an outstandingly bad record on sewage, deliberately massively failing to monitor potential sewage overflow points…

    Maybe, but they haven’t paid £70 billion to shareholders..If the same level of pollution was present in an English nationalised water system the country would be no worse off in pollution but £70 billion better off financially

  • @David Raw: You’re thinking of Virgin West Coast. Virgin voluntarily surrendered the LNER (East Coast) Franchise in 2018 – the franchise had become unviable in part because Network Rail failed to complete some line upgrades that the franchise agreement depended on. Completely separately from that, in 2019 Virgin was barred from bidding for the new West Coast franchise because they were not willing to meet pension obligations that DfT had made a condition of the franchise. That franchise was subsequently awarded to Avanti.

    @Roland: How have water utilities failed to deliver to consumers? I’ve been a Thames Water customer for 10+ years. I pay them to supply me with water and to take away and deal with my waste. Throughout those years they have done exactly that, as I’m pretty sure is the case through almost the whole country, outside a few times/places where water supply has been disrupted.

  • @expats. I haven’t seen that £70 Bn dividends before. But even assuming it’s true, that’s not all money that’s lost in the way you imply. I think you’re forgetting, those dividends are – in effect the shareholders’ reward for investing money in the water companies in the first place (including what they paid the Government to buy the companies) plus taking the risk of something going wrong and losing that money (admittedly in the circumstances, not much of a risk), plus taking responsibility for running the companies. Without the shareholders/privatisation, the Government would have had to cough up that money/take the risk/etc. itself – which would have lead to more borrowing and more interest payments being paid by the Government/taxpayers.

  • @ Simon R. “You’re thinking of Virgin West Coast. Virgin voluntarily”.

    No, I’m not, Simon. Please refer to The Guardian report, 15 May, 2018.

  • I see no Guardian report linked to anywhere in this discussion. Which report are you referring to?

  • Chris Moore 30th Mar '24 - 7:20am

    @Expats: you are rather confused about dividends. The “nation” is not 70bn pounds “worse off” because dividends are paid from one set of private bodies – the water companies – to another set of private bodies – shareholders, i.e pension funds, individuals etc.

    @Mick Taylor: nationalise without compensation? The Venezuela solution. Steal the assets and become an international pariah. Good luck with that!!

    @Peter Martin: honestly, Peter, serving up boilerplate MMT dogma is not a serious contribution to the subject.

    Borrowing is not costless, as you should well know by now. You are misusing your beloved MMT. Please take your own theory more seriously.

    @Jason O Connor: customers have not been charged the real cost of water and sewage provision for decades. This goes back to before privatisation.

    Private water companies would need to take on vast amounts of debt to renew water infrastructure. The only way of paying back the debt would be by raising charges.

    The state could natonalise, but once nationalised I don’t believe the Tresaury would sanction the vast investment required to bring infrastructure up to scratch. Look at the record prior to privatisation. It was absolutely dire. Not enough investment went in.

    And again water customers were not charged the real costs of water provision.

  • Chris Moore 30th Mar '24 - 7:36am

    Renewal of water infrastructure is a pressing issue.

    To my mind, slagging off executives and shareholders may be emotionally rewarding, but offers no way forward.

    The water companies need to expand their balance sheets to fund more investment.

    Rather than doing this through debt, I believe the government should buy large minority stakes in such companies through newly issued shares. This would allow the companies to take on new private debt to fund investment.

    In terms of ownership, the end result would be private water companies with large minority government stakes. The government would be the largest individual shareholder and would thus be in a strong position to influence decisions not only around strategy, but also about levels of dividend payments, executive compensation and so on.

    This is more effective than outright nationalisation, as it EXPANDS the balance sheet, not merely changes ownership.

  • Chris Moore 30th Mar '24 - 7:42am

    To reiterate, ownership is NOT the issue: private, public and mutual (Welsh Water) all have dire records on sewage.

    This is because all have failed – for different reasons – to invest enough in infrastructure.

  • Peter Martin 30th Mar '24 - 8:59am

    “To reiterate, ownership is NOT the issue…..”

    It’s part of the issue. The point about Welsh ( and you could perhaps have included Scottish) water is valid though.

    It’s in large part due to economic misperceptions about what we can afford as a country. The fallacy is that if resources are commanded from private sources they are far more affordable than if they are commanded by government. It’s someone else paying for them rather than the taxpayer.

    We saw this with the operation of the railways. It was starved of investment because the neoliberals didn’t want the numbers to be set against government spending. The same sentiment was behind so-called public private partnerships and public private finance initiatives. These were often nothing more than an exercise in keeping the numbers off the books.

    It’s the available resources we have as a country which defines how we can run everything – including the water/sewerage industries and the railways. Once we start to get the right perspective we can get the economics right too.

  • Peter Davies 30th Mar '24 - 9:34am

    Can I suggest that final responsibility for all ‘final mile’ services should lie with local authorities. That’s water, electricity, gas (for now), drainage and maybe even cable. I would not expect them to take everything in house but they would have that power and more realistically to choose suppliers, negotiate service contracts and enforce them.

  • Peter Martin 30th Mar '24 - 10:02am

    @ Roland,

    ” How have water utilities failed to deliver to consumers?….I pay them to supply me with water and to take away and deal with my waste….. they have done exactly that…”

    I’m sure you can work out the answer to this question yourself. Hint: You need to expand your expectations of what we are paying for. How about clean seas and rivers!

  • Chris, I’m sad to say it but you are missing the fundamental point here.

    Ownership is the key issue, and the reason is simple to understand. The vast majority of English water assets are not owned by the state through its government, but by private companies that no democratic bodies have the ability to affect. Since privatisation they have steadfastly worked to find ways to maximise profits for the benefit of its key stakeholders, and minimise risks to them.

    This is a perfectly valid objective for a company. However, they have done this by continually working to increase their their income which comes almost entirely from us, the British public, by taking full advantage of an almost comatose regulator, coupled with adopting a financial structure designed to minimise the risk of statutorily based sanctions through always having the minimum amount of stakeholder funds within the company structure.

    This could not happen with a publicly owned structure.

  • Jason Connor 30th Mar '24 - 11:27am

    So what has TW invested in infrastructure? They’ve spent I don’t know how much on the new sewage tunnel but still it’s being discharged into the Thames. The boat race participants are advised not to jump into the Thames because of E. coli. The river should be getting cleaner year on year not dirtier and this is a damning indictment of their record as a company. Meanwhile customers are paying more without any improvement in the service. There is no accountability or enforced regulation as David Evans says. That’s why we need a nationalised structure and return to public ownership.

  • Peter Davies 30th Mar '24 - 2:42pm

    @Jason Connor. The Thames Tideway won’t have any effect until it comes into use. Construction has just completed. It will have a big effect.

    I think many are missing the point that most water companies are supplying good quality water reliably. They would probably be doing a reasonable job of disposing of sewage were it not for the fact that they are doing a very bad job of disposing of surface run-off. That job has been made harder by climate change and by the concreting and tarmacing of significant parts of the same areas that generate the sewage.

    Part of the problem lies in the pre-capitalist structure by which corporations are granted monopolies on a profitable venture (selling water) in return for providing services (disposing of sewage and drainage). This arrangement was common in many ancient and medieval polities and is the reason for the downfall of several. It was also used in the Royal Mail privatisation which is clearly unsustainable.

  • Mick Taylor 30th Mar '24 - 4:31pm

    As Roland says, it’s relatively easy to bring the railways back into state ownership in the way he suggests, on a rolling basis where existing franchises are not renewed, when up. 4 or is it 5 rail companies are already being run by a public body, if we commit to renationalising, we can do it and pay nothing. Right and popular.
    Water is a different issue. There are no franchises and the Water Companies are effectively free agents to do what they wish. OFWAT might as well be owned by the water companies for all the good it does. So, government should simply nationalise them. No compensation. At a stretch (and I don’t support this) the shareholders could get government bonds. They, and the directors have milked the water companies for years. They shouldn’t be allowed a penny more.

  • Chris Moore 31st Mar '24 - 7:34am

    @Mick Taylor: Mick, I was very badly brought up and think theft is wrong. It’s a serious ethical limitation against which I struggle every day.

    The rail industry is franchised; the underlying assets are not owned by the franchisee. So it’s a completely different situation.

    Confiscating assets in the way you suggest would lead to a cascade of cases against the UK government in UK and international courts. The UK government would lose. We would be a pariah state. Honestly, there ate more sensible solutions.

    Again, David Evans and others, I note the criticisms about how awful private water companies are and your how everything will be hunky-dory post nationalisation.

    This flies in the face of all the evidence about state water company performance. Scottish Water doesn’t even bother to monitor the problem of sewage seriously.

    What I’ve repeatedly said here is that ALL water companies have failed on the issue of sewage.

    Peter Davies is absolutely right when he points to the ecological changes that have made the problem more acute: climate change and increased urbanisation (and population).

    The correct response is to find viable ways to bring more investment into the industry.

    I have suggested one way forward. Nationalisation gets us nowhere, as it doesn’t bring in any new investment.

  • Chris Moore 31st Mar '24 - 7:50am

    Btw in my current home country of Spain, the handling of sewage is more successful than in the UK, in general.

    There are several reasons for this. To take just two:

    1. Water infrastrucure has a younger profile overall than in the UK.

    2.Given the importance of tourism to the Spanish economy, there is intense political focus on beach quality.

    Each regional government has ultimate control of how water is organised in their region. Some opt for public companies; others farm out the running of water assets to private companies.

    Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that there is no discernible advantage in either way of organisation.

    I’d like to repeat what I’ve said before: if you think that nationalisation per se is the solution, you need to very rapidly remind yourself of the record of pre-privatisation water companies and the lamentable publicly owned Scottish Water.

    If you think privatisation of Scottish Water is the solution in Scotland, please acquaint yourself with the record of private water companies on sewage in the UK.

    If you think mutualisation is the way forward, please take a close look at the dire record of Welsh Water.

    The issue is one of MONEY.

  • Again Chris Moore, You haven’t even engaged in wider discussion, merely re-iterated your limited facts, providing you with no idea of a solution, and ignoring the wider points that I made, which points to why it is the structure of the privatised industry that has to be reformed to make progress towards a solution. The failure of water in Wales is down to old fashioned public sector bureaucratic incompetence and total absence of any political will to sort it out. That is for the Welsh electorate to resolve.

    Two different problems, two different solutions.

  • The problem in both the privatised and public owned water industry is not MONEY.

    It is WASTE OF MONEY.

  • Chris Moore 30th Mar ’24 – 7:20am……@Expats: you are rather confused about dividends. The “nation” is not 70bn pounds “worse off” because dividends are paid from one set of private bodies – the water companies – to another set of private bodies – shareholders, i.e pension funds, individuals etc……..

    And there was me thinking that the money coming into the the private water companies (and paid in dividends to the second private bodies) was from it’s customers who, in a nationalised industry, would be paying it directly into the state..Clearly, I’ve a lot to learn about such matters..

  • Peter Martin 31st Mar '24 - 4:32pm

    There’s been some mention of the possibility of Nationalisation without compensation. This would be a political decision but I doubt it is one that either the Labour Party or the Lib Dems would approve of.

    There really is no need. Thames Water still has some market value which is reported to be around £2 billion. If we, as individuals, were to buy a share in TW it would cost us approx £100. We wouldn’t be any worse off afterwards. The £100 just appears on our personal balance sheet under a different heading.

    It’s the same for government which can, in any case, just create the money it needs to pay off the shareholders. So the upshot is that, providing the prices paid are fair, nationalisation doesn’t actually cost anything and privatisation doesn’t make the government any better off.

    The 1945 nationalised some 30% of the economy at a time when it is often said that we nearly bankrupt. So this understanding is nothing new. It’s more like that neoliberal politicians try to create a false narrative to imply we “can’t afford” it. I’m sure Rachel Reeves knows that this isn’t true but t doesn’t stop her saying what she does.

  • Peter Martin 31st Mar ’24 – 4:32pm…………. Thames Water still has some market value which is reported to be around £2 billion. If we, as individuals, were to buy a share in TW it would cost us approx £100. We wouldn’t be any worse off afterwards. The £100 just appears on our personal balance sheet under a different heading.,,,,,,

    Selling shares was tried in 1989; that is what got us into this mess..

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